Balance Your Life by Planning your Week

This weekly planning strategy is based on Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “THE 7 HABITS” is a Registered Trademark of Franklin Covey Co. This post is in not associated with nor endorsed by Franklin Covey Co.

What is “Balance”

I don’t like the term “Work/Life” balance because it implies that there are only two areas of importance: Work and Life. The reality for most of us is that “Life” is actually composed of several important roles: Parenting, Homeownership, Friendships, Community, “Me” time, etc….

Most of us already spend at least half our waking hours at work. This does not leave much time for the other important areas in your life.

How I Plan My Week

Every week (on Saturday or Sunday morning) I go through the following ritual to plan the coming week:

1. Review your Personal Mission Statement

Although not absolutely necessary to begin, a personal mission statement gives you guidance and is a reminder of what is important to you.  If you don’t already have one, take some time to write one. Every week review your mission statement and update it as necessary.

My Personal Mission Statement:

To find happiness, fulfillment, and value in living I will strive to:

  • Make a positive difference in the lives of others;
  • Spend more quality time with friends and family;
  • Simplify my life; work less; have more “perfect days”; and keep an open mind;
  • Do great things; strive for excellence; and inspire others.
  • Apologize sincerely when necessary.
  • Remember that life is short; be grateful; relax and enjoy the moment; Memento Mori.

2. Identify & Review your Roles

Achieving “balance in life” isn’t about getting a 50/50 balance between “work” and “life”.  You play many more than just 2 roles in life. You should devote time to all the roles you play: Individual, Father, Husband, Friend, Employee, Homeowner, Artist, World Traveler, Adventurer, etc…

You should Identify all the roles you play in your life that you would like to devote more time to. Ideally you should have somewhere between 4 -8 roles identified. Each week you will make an effort to spend a little bit of time in each role.

My Roles:

  • Individual
  • Father / Husband
  • Family Member (son, brother, cousin)
  • Friend
  • Employee / Entrepreneur
  • Homeowner

Every week review this list of roles to ensure that they are current. Sometimes I consolidate two roles into a single one, or split up a role into two. (I previously had the role of “Artist” listed, but decided to merge it into the “Individual” role). It is important that these roles are aligned with what is important to you.

3. Identify and Review your longterm Goals

For each of your roles, define some long term goals. What are some big picture goals that would make a tremendous difference if you accomplish them? Ideally they are specific and not vague. Each week you should spend a little bit of time getting closer to those goals, by completing tasks that little by little get you closer to your final destination.

Review these goals weekly to make sure they are still aligned with what is important to you. Ideally, most of the things you do an a day-to-day or weekly basis should get you closer to one of your goals.

Some of my Goals :

  • Individual: Resume Painting; Climb Mt. Kilamanjaro; Visit the Pyramids of Giza.
  • Father / Husband: Weekly date night; 10 year anniversary trip; Build swing set;
  • Family: Help my father lose 50lbs; Yearly cottage trip; 
  • Friend: Help my friends identify and complete their goals;
  • Homeowner: Renovate garage; Build a pool; 

4. Identify Weekly tasks

For each of your ROLES (indentified in #2 above) identify some tasks that get you closer to one of your GOALS. Identify at least 1 task per role, but avoid trying to do too much — I usually cap it at 3 tasks per role maximum.

Example:

  • Individual: (1) Research VISA requirements for travel to Kenya; (2) Research recommended training regiment for Mt. Kilamanjaro climb; (3) Research estimated costs for trip;
  • Father / Husband: (1) Buy flowers for wife; (2) Spend 1-on-1 time with daughter; (3) Start budget/savings plan for 10 year anniversary trip;
  • Family: (1) Visit my father weekly (and call daily) to make sure he is following his Slow Carb Diet.
  • Homeowner: (1) Look at municipal setback regulations for stone wall/barrier; (2) Fall cleanup / maintenance

5. Personal Renewal

In addition to the tasks/roles above you should also devote some time to “personal renewal”: Physical, Mental , Social, and Spiritual. Identify 1-3 tasks for each one of these areas each week.

Example:

  • Physical: Gym x2; Run x3; Nutrition
  • Mental: Learn a new Language; Read a book
  • Spritual: Go for a solo Hike; Play Guitar; Meditate; Review mission statement, roles, & goals.
  • Social:  Attend Networking Event; Go out for lunch with co-workers

5. Schedule your activities

Using a calendar, task list, or other time management tool, schedule all of your activities and try to do them all.


Life BalancerLife Balancer App

I have built a free iOS app to help with your weekly planning:

Life Balancer [Free / iOS]

DISCLAIMER This app is in no way associated with nor endorsed by Franklin Covey Co.


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The Four Quadrants of Time Management

The Four Quadrants of Time is a time management matrix popularized by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “THE 7 HABITS” is a Registered Trademark of Franklin Covey Co. This post is in no way associated with nor endorsed by Franklin Covey Co.

Time Management Matrix

Everything you do in life can be classified as:

  • Urgent / Not Urgent
  • Important / Not Important.

Most people spend their lives focused on the Urgent things regardless of their importance. In business as in life it is extremely important to always ask yourself: “Am I doing this because it is truly important or am I doing this just because it is urgent?”

Only focus on the important things — ignore everything else regardless of the urgency.

Quadrant 1 - CrisisQuadrant 1:
Important and Urgent

Firefighting mode: Crises, real hard deadlines for important project, health & family emergencies, etc…

These are things you cannot and should not ignore.  However spending too much time in this Quadrant will lead to stress and burn out — you will be caught in a never-ending cycle of crisis management and fire fighting.

The only way to reduce the time you spend in this quadrant is to be proactive and to spend more time on the important things BEFORE they become emergencies.

Quadrant 1 Example:

Dealing with a heart attack is an Urgent and Important problem (Q1) that cannot be ignored — but maybe if you would have spent more time eating healthy and exercising (Q2) you could have avoided it altogether.

Quadrant 2 - Prevention and PlanningQuadrant 2:
Important but not Urgent

This is where you should spend most of your time.

Activities in this quadrant include planning, prevention, capability improvement, relationship building, recognizing new opportunities, etc…

Spending your time in this quadrant will lead to:

  • Clear vision
  • Balanced life
  • Discipline
  • Control
  • Very few crisis situations.

Quadrant 2 Examples:

  • Frequently buying flowers for your wife/girlfriend “just because”
  • Eating healthy and exercising to avoid future health issues
  • Preventative maintenance on your home or car
  • Reading, Learning, and Education
  • Forming bonds and strengthening relationships with your friends and family
  • Self renewal and spending time on things that inspire and uplift you

Quadrant 3 - InterruptionsQuadrant 3:
Not Important but Urgent

People spend a big portion of their time in this Quadrant confusing Urgent things for Important things.

This Quadrant is full of pressing matters: Interruptions, Ringing phones, Most emails, etc…  Spending too much time in  this quadrant leads to a very short-term focus with continual crisis management.  You will begin to see plans and goals as useless since you are unlikely to have time to devote to them.  Your relationships and reputation will suffer and you will feel victimized with no control over your life. (Stay away from this quadrant: Puppies will almost certainly die).

Quadrant 3 Example:

You have scheduled an important meeting with a coworker 2 weeks ahead of time.  This person has very limited time and so you carve out a 30 minute window to deal with a very important matter.

As you sit down and start the meeting, your phone starts to ring.  The phone is screaming: “Pick me up! Pick me up! Pick me up!”

Most people will pickup the phone and sacrifice the Important but not urgent meeting for the Not Important but Urgent ringing phone.

Quadrant 4 - Time WastersQuadrant 4:
Not Urgent and Not Important

Quadrant 4 are the time wasters in your life:

Spending too much time in this quadrant can lead to dependence on others for your basics, loss of jobs, irresponsibility, etc…

Quadrant 4 Examples: 

  • Trivial busy work
  • Mindless web surfing
  • Watching too much TV
  • Lots of pleasant activities.

What now?  How do I use this to make my life better?

Where we are and where we want to be

Indentify Q2 Activities1. Identify Quadrant 2 activities.

  • Write down all the Quadrant 1 and 3 activities you routinely do (all the Urgent stuff)
  • Write down how you can prevent these things from reoccurring or from becoming emergencies in the first place: These are your new Quadrant 2 activities.

2. Make time for Q2 activitiesFree up time for Quadrant 2 activities

  • Look at all the things in Quadrant 4 and STOP DOING THEM!
  • Look at all the things in Quadrant 3 and stop doing them too.  This is more difficult as it involves saying NO to people.
  • You should now have time to spend on Quadrant 2

Schedule Time for Q23. Schedule time for Quadrant 2

  • Schedule time to do Quadrant 2 activities. (Put them in your calendar just like a meeting).
  • DO THE THINGS YOU SCHEDULED!

Q2 eats Q14. Reduce Quadrant 1

  • The beauty with spending more time in Quadrant 2 is that it should slowly chip away at all your Quadrant 1 activities.
  • As you reduce your Quadrant 1 activities you have more time for Quadrant 2,, creating a fly-wheel effect.

Simple, right?

Not quite.  The Question “What is important to me?” usually does not have a simple answer.

Example 1: Going to a Sporting event (Hockey, Baseball, Football game, etc…)

Which quadrant does this fall into?  The answer is it depends on YOUR priorities and what is important to YOU. On the surface it looks clearly like a Q4 item – a time waster.  Not urgent and certainly not important.

But, it could be a Q2 event (important) if you consider the event to be an opportunity to spend quality time building relationships with your parents, children, or friends .

Example 2: Watching TV

Clearly another Q4 item: A time waster.  Or is it?  If watching TV is a stress reliever for you and serves as a way to wind down and chill out after a hectic day, it could very well be a Q2 activity.  Just as long as you frame it correctly and consume it in the right way.

To be successful with this method you must have a very clear understanding of what is important to you, what your long term goals are, etc… For more information about how to plan your week around this framework, see my blog post on How I Plan My Week.


Life BalancerLife Balancer App

Fans of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” should download my Free iOS app to help with their weekly planning.

Life Balancer v1.1 [Free / iOS]

DISCLAIMER “THE 7 HABITS” is a Registered Trademark of Franklin Covey Co. The Life Balancer app is in no way associated with nor endorsed by Franklin Covey Co.


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